“OK Maggie, you guys can canter across the field another time and go ahead and blast through the last part.”  Maggie, age 11, is in the lead on Velvet, followed by Skylar on Chavali and Rachel on Freedom, who is the slowest horse, but please don’t tell him that!  The field is “Esther Clark Park”; City of Palo Alto Open Space, although I’m sure most residents of Los Altos Hills think it belongs to them.  Clark’s field is our favorite blast path.  Rarely visited, we usually have the 3/4 mile path to ourselves.  When the rains start, the path becomes slippery and dangerous for horses.  But until then, the girls have been packing in extra runs across the field.

Of all the horses, Velvet can really move.  She’s not even close to being able to keep up with a thoroughbred.  That doesn’t mean she’s not fast.  As far as Maggie is concerned, the faster the better.  Theresa and I; and Cowgirl and Stoney; waited at the destination end of the field, me holding the horses, Theresa wielding her camera, or rather her ipod with ten (free) photography apps downloaded on to it.  As they headed down the last stretch of path I hollered. “let her rip!”. I think it was the first time Magnolia had experienced the full potential of Velvet’s speed and as they approached end of the path, the look on Maggie’s face became more and more alarmed.  Staying on was not the problem.  The question was, how was Velvet going to stop?  At least that’s what Maggie thought.  Velvet didn’t have a problem making a jaunty little zigzag and come to a stop right before the concrete.  But Velvet’s plans did not take into account whether or not Magnolia would stay on and she didn’t.  As Velvet dodged one way, Maggie started to slide off the other.  Magnolia, the most athletic kid to ever ride with me, managed to hang on for the second or two it took for Velvet to change direction, tossing Magnolia to the other side for a second and she would have stayed on if there hadn’t been one last twist, but by this time Maggie had figured she probably wasn’t going to stay topside. She decided her best course was to lean over and grab Velvet’s neck.  As Velvet’s feet finally came to a stop, Maggie slid, gracefully, off, rolling into the dried grass on her backside.

“Theresa!  Did you get that?! Did you get the picture?”  

“No!  It jammed.  It jammed just at that moment! But I did get a picture of Velvet with all four feet off the ground.”

I’m a little worried.  I’m wondering just how long it’s going to be before Theresa figures out she can charge me for her photos.

Theresa was one of the more difficult riders to start. She was fussy, moody and fractious.  Every kid has a “hook”, but hers was hard to find.  One day in the arena she grabbed my iphone to take a photo and that was it.  Her camera and now her camera and ipod come out with her every ride day and when they run out of battery, she takes my phone.  “Picture!  Picture!!  P-I-C-T-U-R-E!!!!!” is the punctuation of a trail ride with Theresa.  She has agreed, after some scolding, to properly tack up her horse, but participation in every other way involves a camera.  When the rest of the girls were performing the exhausting task of running Stoney around the Jensen’s pasture, Theresa was running around with a camera in each hand.  “I need five right hands!”

It’s not exactly the most focused way to learn riding, but her riding is improving by leaps and bound despite her preoccupation with the camera, whereas before it was fits and starts.  I guess it takes more than a little riding skill to take a photo from horseback.

As for Magnolia, her mother now finally has a photo of her daughter flying across Clark’s field.  Too bad we don’t have documentation of the creative dismount to go with it.

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